News

Illinois Sets The Standard For Cannabis Regulations

Cannabis is an industry that’s only just beginning. Earlier this month, the state of Illinois put standards in place that will shape the cannabis industry for the Midwest and the rest of the country for decades to come. 

We’re living in extraordinary times. Cannabis is changing the country from medicine to production, with industrial giants and small-time growers all searching for some sense of direction. With states across the country passing legislation to allow legal adult use, the regulations have been relatively inconsistent. 

Illinois is one of those states. With their marijuana law taking action On January 1, 2020, they’ve passed some of the tightest cannabis production legislation in the country, detailed regulations in energy consumption, water, and other aspects of production that demands a high level of efficiency from Day One. 

There’s a lot at stake for the industry, and for the most part, cannabis growers are excited to take charge of their expansive energy footprint. A five thousand foot growing facility uses 66% more energy than the average US household. To offset that demand, Illinois is joining Massachusetts in passing strict energy regulations. These include:

  • A cap of 36 Watts per per square foot
  • Mandatory installation of automatic watering and irrigation systems
  • Mandatory use of DesignLights Consortium approved lighting fixtures
  • Limit water runoff to less than 20%
  • Specific high-efficiency HVAC equipment

The scale of Illinois’ cannabis industry is large and is expected to grow each year. Right now, they have 20 indoor facilities licensed for production, with a further 100 smaller producers with licenses to grow in facilities up to 5,000 square feet. 

One of the most important parts of the legislation is that the law requires producers to explain in detail exactly how each grower will meet the standards of the law. It’s a process that demands an intimate knowledge of the complex systems in place, and a field we feel uniquely situated to support businesses tackle. With these regulations regarded as the new standard, we expect to see similar laws passed across the country, and we’re ready to support businesses everywhere. 

Whether you’re looking to get started, upgrade your facility to meet regulations, or need help presenting your current HVAC to inspectors, we can help!

Measuring Growth: Energy Will Shape Cannabis Growth

The cannabis industry is one of the most intriguing opportunities in the country right now. Across the nation, more states are legalizing cannabis than ever before, giving producers a “green light” to go big. But in the race to scale up comes the hurdle of overcoming the big energy demands of indoor production. 

Especially in states like Michigan, indoor production is going to make up a big chunk of the industry’s efforts to meet all-new levels of demand. With more production comes a larger supply, and prices have dropped accordingly. In addition to this new challenge, that extra production means energy costs go up, too. Roughly 63% of cannabis production is exclusively indoors, with a further 20% partially indoors, often for specific parts of the growth cycle. 

That adds up to a lot of juice; in 2012, before many states introduced and passed legalization legislation, cannabis production made up 1% of the nation’s electrical demand. Every production facility has a sizeable footprint, with a national average of over 41,000 kwh per month for a 5,000 square foot indoor facility. 

It makes a lot of sense that cannabis producers are preparing for both more energy costs and new tech; before they grow, they’re working with energy efficiency experts like Keen Technical Solutions to make sustainable practices as part of their blueprint. We’re working with companies across the Midwest to plug in renewable energy options like solar and wind power to support best practices developed by the industry. Every tool in our toolbox has a role in a cannabis facility, from HVAC to mechanical insulation, light fixtures to sustainable development.

We’re able to bring our decades of experience to a brand new industry. This is an incredible opportunity for us to support growers who are primed to reach all-new levels of production, but just as importantly, it’s a chance for us to help them do so with as little impact on our environment as possible. We all have something invested in the direction the cannabis industry takes right now; we’re ready to do our part with companies taking the forward-thinking route. 

The Road To Zero: Neutral Carbon And The Magic Number For Renewables and Energy Storage

It’s a massive challenge, but a crucial one. Across the country and around the world, companies, cities, even entire countries are committing to getting to zero carbon emissions. Ranging from the ambitious to the outrageous, the timeline for those goals varies by decades, but the real question is how we plan to get there. It’s a race against time, against pollution, against resistance, and against significant technological barriers. It’s a race to zero. But how do we get there?

It appears there are two avenues, though both of them rely heavily on renewable energy as a crucial piece of their infrastructure. Some of those goals are specific in achieving carbon neutrality with renewables and energy storage alone, which would eliminate nuclear or biomass sources of electricity. That’s a key distinction, with various risks and inefficiencies of those types of energy production already controversial. This avenue puts tremendous pressure on renewable technologies not just to adapt and improve quickly, but to do so cheaply. While solar, wind, and other renewables have improved in leaps and bounds, they’re only now becoming reasonable options for consumers, especially at grid-level. 

The other option is to include renewable options like biomass and nuclear energy as pieces to the energy puzzle, not only to meet specific timelines but as integral parts of the energy picture for decades to come. This relieves some pressure on renewables, allowing certain parts of the grid in place; think of it as starting a game of connect-the-dots with one corner already finished. However, support of nuclear power, in particular, is waning, and with geopolitical instabilities around all things nuclear more fragile than ever, it’s not a technology that can be fairly, safely, or equitably implemented around the globe. 

So how do we get to grid-level renewable energy, which has a near-constant demand, with power generation that is variable at best? Both wind and solar electrical production peaks and dips according to the season, the time of day, even minute to minute; a passing cloud could affect solar, while gusting and becalmed times can have a huge impact on wind. The key, then, is storage, and storage that’s inexpensive enough to implement now. 

That number isn’t exactly a mystery. MIT ran a study that put the figure at $20 per kilowatt-hour to make renewable energy and energy storage viable. The downside? That’s nearly half the rate these technologies can offer right now. Experts say that this figure may not even be possible by 2030, a full decade away. A big part of that forecast is that the study accounted for not just daily, weekly, or monthly fluctuations in wind and solar energy, but entire years and even decades; they aren’t building this model based on short-term changes, but for long-term peaks and valleys in energy consumption. In effect, they’re preparing for the worst-case scenarios, which would be extremely high demands (think six years of very cold winters and very hot summers, for example) with extremely low output from wind and solar. 

It’s those ‘worst-case’ scenarios that skew the target kilowatt costs. The study pointed out that if we account for 95% of energy needs, opposed to 100%, then the target kilowatt-hour jumps to $150. Why does such a small change have such a big impact? Because that 5% accounts for astronomically small and rate weather patterns; it’s like saying we’re having the worst weather possible not just for a year or two, but for decades. 

And that’s a big point to make; such gloomy weather forecasts are extremely unlikely. It’s also worth noting that these renewable energy sources are no different than fossil fuels and natural gas in one way; no source of fuel is perfectly reliable. Changes in access, production, and efficiency in oil refinement, for example, is why the cost of a barrel of oil can change drastically in a single day, and even more do over long periods of time. Historically, oil production has gone up, while the future only looks brighter for renewables. While scarcity and exhaustion mean oil will only ever costs more before it ultimately runs out, technology and efficiency improvements mean renewable energy can only get less expensive. 

That brings us to another point to be optimistic. If you were to invest in the infrastructure of your business, your city, or your country, which would you back financially. Option one will only cost you more money over time and eventually run out, but it is cheaper now. Option two will only cost you less money over time and never run out, but costs more today. Anyone planning for the next decade and beyond will go for the second option, and that’s why the 2030 forecast for viable energy storage and renewable energy might not be as optimistic as it should be. Soon, the industry will have the type of investment and financial backing to make the types of strides we need to see to make it viable sooner, and that’s because it’s not just society that needs these changes, but the influential businesses themselves. 

Will it take another decade to see renewable energy and energy storage take over? We don’t think so. Want to learn more? Give us a call and let’s talk about how you can create your own grid now and insulate your business from changing energy costs for years to come.

How Extreme Weather Stresses The Grid

Europe experienced a week-long heatwave in mid-July. Just a week, scorching temperatures melted the Midwest and Deep South, eventually moving to the East Coast to smother states like New York and Massachusetts. But it wasn’t just tough on the people of those regions.

The sweltering heat is a massive strain on power grids, too. In winter, natural gas, heating oil, and other fuel sources supporting heating efforts and while the grid does see an increase in demand on frigid days, it’s often less pronounced than during summer months. That’s because when people need air conditioning, nearly everything draws on electricity. Bearing the brunt of the cooling needs of tens of millions of people, the grid sees massive, prolonged levels of demand that can last days or even weeks.

That demand can lead to outages, and when the lights go off and the air conditioning shuts d

own, those high temperatures can be dangerous. Cities across the Midwest offered public cooling spaces, water, even air-conditioned places to charge electronics to those whose homes had lost power.

It isn’t all load, either. The temperatures actually cause the grid to operate even less efficiently, with transmission lines physically swelling due to the heat and increased load. Studies show that extreme heat could cause a 1-5% decrease in efficiency over the next decade.

Tackling climate change and extreme weather patterns will take a lot of resources, innovation, and investment. There are lessons to be learned from states who’ve experienced similar heatwaves in the past, but energy grid experts are motivated to do more. See what other factors have caused energy companies to look to grid-scale energy storage solutions to make sure we can power the future.

Keeping Up With Energy Storage: Key Projects Around The World

Only recently, it was technological challenges that were holding back energy storage options. Now, it’s keeping up.

New systems and technologies have reshaped how energy storage is influencing the future of energy across the country and around the world. In every industry and at any scale, energy storage is emerging as a major priority. Over the past five years, batteries have improved in leaps and bounds, and the result has been a renewed interest and investment in everything from residential, industrial, even municipal grid systems tagging in batteries to aid their production efforts.

It’s worth taking a look at some of the biggest opportunities. In Australia, a gold mine has tagged in ESS as a part of its energy picture. The Genex Power project is utilizing wind, solar, and ESS to power a remote abandoned gold mine and turn it into the world’s first pumped hydro station. Using captured renewable energy and storage, the plan is to use the mine as a hydropower plant augmented with nearly 3 million solar panels. The total energy output is expected to be around 250 mWh for eight hours, with a start-up time of just 30 seconds.

Closer to home, Utah announced a 1,000-megawatt project to store renewable energy in the heart of the state. The project will rely on four different types of batteries, offering a neat glimpse at how different materials and systems offer unique advantages. They’ll use renewable hydrogen, compressed air energy storage, large-scale flow batteries, and solid oxide fuel cells in the project, with all renewable hydrogen batteries stored in five massive salt caverns that have already been earmarked.

Of course, most facilities face more familiar challenges, and they’ve addressed those challenges by adopted new technologies and some old tools, too. Peak power demands don’t just spike consumption; they also drive up rates to astronomic levels. Businesses like Channel Lumber have brought in ESS batteries to reduce their kilowatt rate by 20%, with an annual savings of over $50,000.

It’s a great time to look at your energy future. With an energy audit, we can determine what energy storage options work best for your business and help you take control of your energy environment for years to come.

The State of Solar In 2019

In 2019, alternative energy sources are booming. Solar, wind, geothermal, and others have found new applications in all-new fields. These are the technologies that won’t just serve as elements of individual companies or facilities; they’re going to be the backbone of the grid itself.

We’re taking a quick look at solar power as an example of just how much it has grown as not just a viable option, but the right option for many businesses, municipalities, and providers. One of the longest-running barriers for technologies like solar has been incentives. One such incentive, the Solar Investment Tax Credit, has played a big role in solar’s 50% annual growth since its inception in 2006. The ITC was renewed just ahead of its 2016 expiration, and there’s every reason to think it will be supported for years to come.

A big part of that optimism comes from encouraging statistics. Nearly 250,000 people work in the solar industry, double the number that worked in the field in 2012. Over 10,000 companies are classified as part of the solar field, which is now estimated to be worth $17 billion per year. Solar is one of the most heavily-supported industries in renewable investments, and that’s led to falling prices. Solar panels are now approximately 70% less expensive than in 2012. That drop in expense has made integrated a solar power system much more accessible. The average system in 2012 would cost approximately $48,000; that same set-up would cost just $18,000 today.

Only recent import tariffs caused solar installation across the country to decline, down by 2% in 2018. However, experts forecast that solar installations will double over the next five years, whether those tariffs remain in place or not. Total solar power will account for over 100 GW by the year 2021.

For the average business, this is all good news. More applications, lower initial costs, and better incentives mean including solar power as a part of your own energy environment isn’t just a pipe dream. Fortune 500 companies are committed because they know that solar just makes sense! Paired with energy storage options, we can utilize alternative energy like solar to lower your cost per kilowatt-hour; don’t sell your power back to the grid, keep it to save even more money!

This is just the start; solar is one of the most exciting technologies in a whole world of fast-changing options in energy production, storage, and implementation. Want to learn if solar is a good fit at your business? Call Keen today.

New York Goes Big On Energy Storage

This is how it starts.

This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to invest $55 million into both residential and commercial energy storage projects. The plan is a vital part of helping the state of New York achieve its ambitious goal of 3,000 mW by the year 2030.

Nearly $15 million of that investment comes right now in the forms of incentives that will be available through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Both residents and businesses will be able to apply for these incentives, with funds available to support the implementation of energy storage systems and storage systems that pair with solar power. Over the next three to five years, the remainder of these funds will be released to support the most successful projects and to use that information to determine the best places to invest.

Renewable energy is most effective when businesses and residences can store it. Building a storage infrastructure is now seen as the first step toward achieving energy independence, lowering operating costs, and helping cities and states successfully hit carbon neutrality goals. This program is just one part of what New York claims is a comprehensive effort to bring elements of the Green New Deal to the state and influence other states to follow suit.

New York is a great place to get started. According to the release, there are already 14,000 solar projects on Long Island alone. Not only with the energy storage initiative support these projects, but will go a long ways toward encouraging more residences and businesses to pursue similar renewable options like solar as a part of their energy picture.

This $55 million effort is a part of a $400 million effort that spans the state that targets energy storage improvements at the grid level. Adopting energy storage from both production and consumption sides improves the exchange relationship for both ends and relieves stress on older, often failing power infrastructure.

New York is a pioneer is energy storage and many states, cities, suppliers, and consumers are looking to the state to see how well the process works. This is just the beginning of energy storage. We are excited to be playing a part in changing how the world runs, supporting businesses and communities to be carbon neutral and achieve not just emissions goals and save money, but battling climate change at the same time.

Want to learn more? Contact us at info@keen-minds.com and let us show you how you can improve your energy environment.

Drawing to Save the Planet

Did that title catch your eye?  I spend most of my days drawing.  I love drawing.  But what I love even more is making our world a better place through helping others to conserve energy.  This is the mission of Keen.  A cool local company working worldwide out of our small slice of heaven here in Northern Michigan.  We are a small, dedicated group of high energy individuals, working together for a common goal that benefits the greater good.  What could be more cool than that?

The drawing we do at Keen helps to shape our actions plans for all the work we do.  Whether its positioning new equipment in a space, or re-purposing a space, planning energy consumption of new equipment, or utilizing smart building technology, a technical drawing helps explain and map out our plan.  A blueprint if you will, and game plan for how we plan to make our clients more economically successful while reducing energy consumption

With lighting design, its important to run at photometric study to determine proper light levels for safety and quality of work, but also to dial in the energy usage throughout the space.  The good thing about LEDs in Commercial and Industrial spaces is they are easy to make “smart” and widely customizable with color temperature and intensity.

Keen is on the cutting edge of the LED revolution.  We are not tied to a specific brand of lights, because the industry is always evolving.  The lighting industry mirrors the entire building industry, constant change.  While there has been a lot of talk about smart buildings, and the IOT (Internet of Things), there is still a lot of development and changes rapidly occurring towards the end goal of automation, control, and most importantly, efficiency for economical and environmental reasons.

Industrial Lighting Design

At Keen it is easy to take pride in our work.  It is easy because it is about so much more than just helping our clients, I its about making the world a better place.  That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, and up late at night drawing and designing for the benefit of our clients, and our planet.  And did I mention, we have fun?  Our clients are good people, and our team is top notch.  Ok, I beter get back to work.

There are a lot of uncertainties in our world, but one thing is clear:  Our future is bright!

Thanks for reading we all make a difference.

Eli

 

Eli Brown

Energy Solutions Consultant

Keen Technical Solutions

ebrown@keen-minds.com